CALDWELL, NJ — On behalf of Topology and consultant Phil Abramson, Caldwell Business Administrator Thomas Banker presented a preliminary plan for redevelopment of the downtown corridor. 

Banker noted that the plan would call for “significant density” in some areas with buildings that are four-to-five stories in some areas and “moderate density” of buildings that are two-to-four stories. A mixed-use plan for small areas near the boundaries of the borough along Bloomfield Avenue would allow for two-and-a-half stories with low-to-moderate density. According to Banker, the higher-density areas would have 100 units on a one-acre site.

Banker explained that the goal was “in conjunction with addressing parking and other initiatives to increase the ratable base.” Furthermore, another goal was to have the least impact on the school system by building studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. 

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Plans to ultimately offer a mass-transit connection to train stations would allow the borough to compete with other towns such as South Orange and Montclair, according to Banker.

No action was taken on this presentation, but Banker noted that the intent is to introduce this to the council in a final form by the beginning of January.

Banker also updated the council on the pending parking projects within the borough. Having contracted with Desman Design Management—a national specialist that designs parking facilities—plans will be moving forward to create a new parking deck on Smull Avenue and to expand the parking spots in the business corridor.

According to Banker, the current parking deck at the Caldwell Community Center will eventually be removed, and a flat lot will take its place. Plans call for a parking structure to be built on Smull Avenue that may be either four or five stories high, potentially providing 424 spaces for a four-story deck is built or 540 spaces for a five-story structure. 

There are currently 85 parking spaces at the Smull Avenue lot. Banker summarized that this plan would “be way more efficient than what we currently own.”

An inventory of parking spots currently available determined that 1,063 spaces are available for public parking, 39 are marked as handicapped spots and 140 are considered private spots for a total of 1,250 spaces in the borough.

According to Banker, the intent is to create six categories of parking spots in order to address different kind of needs, including: parking for peak and off-peak retail, commuters, overnight, full-time residential parking and employee parking. A proposed rate that is consistent with other municipalities was a charge of $0.25 per quarter-hour for high-turnover parking spots.

To monitor fees and accessibility to spots, Banker discussed a potential to contract with Boxcar, a company that allows the user to utilize an app to pay for and reserve spots. Banker equated Boxcar to “using an app like Uber for parking that can input license-plate numbers and credit-card information.”

A few residents voiced their concerns regarding the current parking situation. 

Robert Sullivan noted that there were “no tools to enforce the three-hour parking” and was concerned about the height requirements of a parking deck that would prevent emergency vehicles from entering a structure.

Another resident spoke of his concern that commercial vehicles were taking up many spaces that should be available for public use.

Mayor John Kelley also weighed in on both initiatives: 

“Following the adoption of the redevelopment plan, which Topology and our Borough Administrator Tom Banker along with the governing body have been working on, we anticipate there to be a significant uptick in the real estate market along Bloomfield Avenue,” he said.

Kelley noted that the zoning changes that are currently part of this redevelopment plan will “allow for greater investment into the properties in our downtown and should drive a development cycle that Caldwell has never seen before.”

“Besides enhancing the beauty of our downtown, there will be increased occupancy, and thus foot traffic and new business interests will see the opportunity,” he said.

He also said that the borough’s parking plan will “work hand-in-hand with the redevelopment plan.”

“We are studying a Parking Garage design by Desman for construction on the Smull lot behind the Bowtie Cinema,” said Kelley. “Tom Banker is incorporating the parking from that garage along with the rest of the parking in Caldwell into a town-wide parking plan.

“The immediate parking concerns need to be addressed, but we are really planning for the expected future growth and activity in our downtown. The next three years should prove to be very exciting for our little community.”

Consent Agenda:

During the regular agenda, the council introduced an ordinance that would add language about a “sump pump” to the borough code for items that are prohibited to be connected to sewer systems. Councilman Henderson Cole noted that the system that five towns currently utilize has a severe capacity issue, adding that the system is overburdened on rainy days by sump pumps that should be draining to the gutter system and not the sewer system.

Kelley remarked that there will be “many messages that will be going out to the residents regarding this issue.”

Another ordinance introduced on Tuesday would ratify a court order regarding the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligation as it relates to the builder’s remedy lawsuit. On its first reading, the ordinance passed by a vote of 4-1 with Councilwoman Christine Schmidt voicing her objection.

An ordinance amending the borough code was adopted by a 4-1 vote in order to update the official seal of the borough. Council President Francis Rodgers did not support the change.

Additionally, the council tabled a resolution that would have authorized the police department to request and acquire excess department of defense equipment.

Schmidt questioned why the borough would “arm up” and acquire such items, and the mayor agreed that the item should be tabled until the governing body could discuss it with the police chief. Kelley hopes that this conversation will help determine more specifically what the department is requesting and what value it would have for the department.

Committee Reports and Other Updates:

During committee reports, Cole informed the public that Dec. 7 is the final day to drop off unwrapped gifts at the community center as part of the holiday gift tree. Residents are encouraged to acquire gift tags from the tree in order to provide holiday gifts to those less fortunate.

The annual tree lighting will also be held on that date at 4:30 p.m. on the Caldwell Green.

Councilman Jonathan Lace announced that the new borough website is now completed and should go live before the end of the year as soon as a domain is confirmed.

Schmidt reported that the library board met on Nov. 13 and is still looking to fill the director’s position.

She also noted that the first joint community senior citizen holiday celebration will be held at the Greenbrook Country Club in North Caldwell on Friday, Dec. 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mayor Kelley is co-hosting the celebration with West Caldwell Mayor Joseph Tempesta of Roseland Mayor James Spango.

The cost is $35 per person, and residents are invited to register with the department of recreation.

The next borough council meeting will be held on Dec. 3.